Williams have announced that Alex Albon will replace George Russell for 2022 Formula One season, whilst Nicholas Latifi retains his seat for a third campaign.
Albon joins from Red Bull where he has spent this year as Test & Reserve Driver and competing in DTM after losing his F1 seat with the team at end of last season following a seventh-placed championship finish.
This move also reunited Albon and Latifi after the pair drove for DAMS in 2018 F2 season, with Albon finishing third and Latifi down in ninth.
Speaking on his move to Williams as Russell departs for Mercedes next season, Albon admitted that he is “really excited” to return to a race seat within F1 next season, which will see a new set of technical regulations come into effect.
The British-born Thai driver went on to thank Red Bull for letting him make this switch as he reflected on this season, saying: “When you take a year out of F1 it’s never certain you will make a return so I’m extremely thankful to Red Bull and Williams for believing in me and helping me on my journey back to the grid.”
Albon also praised Williams for their “great” progress throughout this season and added that he is looking forward “to helping them continue that journey in 2022.”
For the rest of this season though, Albon has iterated that his focus will be solely on his current role at Red Bull, who are battling Mercedes for the constructor title, as well as the remainder of his DTM commitments.
The 25 year-old also took to Facebook where he paid tribute to Red Bull and congratulated Russell on his move, whilst cheekily warning that although he is taking his seat, he ‘won’t be taking over the topless selfies’ role.
Latifi meanwhile has found his stride in F1 after a lacklustre rookie season in 2020 and currently sits 16th in the driver standings with seven points, having picked up points in Hungary and Belgium this year.
The Canadian has spoken out about his new deal, as he expressed how “excited” he is to stay with the team as he looks forward to the new technical regulations which comes into force next season, whilst admitting that he is confident in the “more competitive direction” of Williams under their new management.
Latifi also spoke about his targets for the rest of this season as he seeks to build momentum for 2022, as he said: “The aim is to continue making little improvements so we can all take advantage of the opportunity we have next year.
“I’m super excited to work with next year’s car and it’s like a fresh start for everybody. I feel privileged to be part of that change.”
‘great blend of youth and experience…’
Williams CEO, Jost Capito has hailed Albon’s arrival as “fantastic”, as he believes that both Albon and Latifi will bring “a great blend of youth and experience that will not only be a great fit for the team but also help us take the next step in our journey.”
Capito also noted that Albon will bring plenty of F1 experience from his time at Red Bull, after being promoted in summer 2019 following a promising start to his rookie season at Toro Rosso (now AlphaTauri).
Capito went on to single out Albon’s “speed” and “multiple podium finishes” as key aspects behind the decision to sign him, ahead of 2021 Formula E champion – Nyck De Vries, who was also linked with the seat.
Red Bull Team Principal, Christian Horner also spoke out on this announcement, as he commented that the decision to release Albon at end of this season was due to their desire to help him “gain more F1 mileage and experience” after tying Sergio Perez down for next season alongside Max Verstappen.
Paying tribute to Albon’s role at the team, Horner added: “Alex has been a hugely valuable asset in his role as our Test & Reserve Driver this year, helping bring performance from the simulator to the car each weekend, but for his career it was important not to spend another season out of an F1 race seat.”
Horner has also vowed to monitor Albon’s “progress closely” throughout 2022 and beyond.